After the Pandemic—A Return to MAD?

Glen T. Martin

People and groups everywhere are talking about the failure of our world system in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.  They are pointing out that nations are on their own in the face of this epidemic.  Poor nations are ravaged because they do not have the resources to cope with the devastation.  Some rich nations are ravaged because their profit-based health care systems cannot possibly deal with what goes beyond profit to the common good of human beings.

And the nations are mostly competing with each other to get what is necessary for the own citizens. We see that the global economic and political system, in a word, is fragmented, unorganized, and not designed for human welfare. Whose welfare is the system designed for?

The natural competition between sovereign nations for the resources and materials necessary to deal with the pandemic reveals their inherent inability to work together.  The situation has been compared to a war against all for survival.[1]  Everywhere people are asking how we can change the world system to something better that will be able to deal effectively with the next global pandemic that will surely arise in the future, and perhaps even to deal with some of the other crises we are facing.

However, most of the proposed changes for after the pandemic tip toe around the real solution. It may be that nearly everyone knows the real solution, but they hesitate to say it aloud.  The Emperor has no clothes, but who dares to say that plainly to the Emperor?  The real solution involves challenging the fundamental premises of the political and economic systems now in power. 

Our planet, plainly speaking, has no government, no center, no brain.  Only a chaos of undemocratic “governance” revolving around the system of so-called “sovereign nation-states,” institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the unenforceable “international law regime” sponsored by the United Nations, several globalized trade agreements, and the international military “empires” of several powerful nations or alliances.[2]

But how are we going to expect any change if we tell them the truth that we need new, democratic, planetary systems in power?  We do not want to frighten them off because we believe we need their cooperation in creating these more universal planetary systems.  We need them to give up some of their claims to absolute sovereignty so that these more planetary forms of governance can emerge. 

If we tell them the truth—that their sovereignty is illegitimate, corrupt, counter-productive, and destructive of the very survival of humankind—they will be upset with us and refuse to cooperate in developing more universal forms of governance.  So we tip toe around the issue.  We assure them that we really don’t mean “world government.”  Absolutely not.  Perhaps they may let us have a powerless “UN Parliamentary Assembly” to complement the current powerless General Assembly as a symbolic gesture pointing toward a possible future of a more universalized global governance.[3]

We do not mean that the people of Earth should democratically govern themselves.  Not at all.  Horrors! How terrible that some dare to imagine any arrangement in which the Lords of the Earth have lost their illegitimate, coercive systems of wealth and power. We don’t mean to offend. We just mean that the Lords of the Earth, the ruling elites in these sovereign governments, should cooperate to let us please make some forms of “governance” a little more planetary and a little less nation-state and private-profit oriented.

Recently, the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres, made a speech begging the warring nations and groups around the world to proclaim a cease-fire while people everywhere struggled to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.[4] How symbolic is that of our broken world system? The UN must beg the nations: “please stop your wars (only temporarily) because we are in the midst of a plague.” So too all the groups planning for a better world after the plague feel they must beg the sovereign nations: “please, let us develop some ‘governance’ for our planet. We don’t mean world government. Honestly, we don’t mean that. But please, relax your sovereignty just a little bit.”

Meanwhile the climate scientists, those pesky people who actually study and understand the planetary ecosystem, tell us that we have perhaps 10 years to totally transform our ways of living and doing business on the Earth before it will be too late.[5]  At the same time, of course, the Lords of the Earth not only do little to address the demands of climate science but continue to upgrade and improve their nuclear weapons systems, preparing the planet for the Armageddon that we have just nearly missed unleashing on ourselves repeated times over the past 70 years.

But who will say out loud that the Emperor has no clothes?  Who dares to be honest in the face of the pending extinction of the human race?  It appears to some that only WCPA dares to speak the truth, only the World Constitution and Parliament Association admits openly that the system of absolute sovereign militarized nation-states is utterly corrupt and illegitimate. Their system is the real problem, whether the Lords of the Earth like it or not.

The other forward-looking organizations that see the need for planetary governance would rather risk the extinction of humanity than offend the Lords of the Earth.  They just want to say “Please, could you allow us to have a little more planetary governance even though we all know what those irksome climate scientists are saying, even though we all know that the Doomsday Clock is now set to 100 seconds before midnight because of the nuclear weapons in combination with on-going climate collapse and the global pandemic.”[6]

The question: “By what right does government govern?” is fundamental here.  Where do governments get their right to claim the sole, legitimate arbitrators of violence within their territories and externally?  Where do they get the right to decide the tragic fate of the Earth itself? At one time it was the divine right of kings.  It was thought that the social system was decreed by God and that the right to govern something following from God’s will.  Today we realize that was a mythology; today we consider it nonsense. 

Then along came the nation-state and the rise of the capitalist bourgeois class of wealthy commoners not of royal lineage. They denounced royal blood as the legitimate source of governing and demanded “rights” for those of property to participate in rulership.  At the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a key mechanism was born that allowed those of property to take over rulership: the sovereign nation-state.[7] 

No longer was blood lineage the only source of governing authority but now each territory had to set up its own system independently. The “social contract” was born.  The property owners and the newly rich now had the right to form a social contract placing some group within their ranks into governing power in order to serve their interests.  It did not have to be democratic, Hobbes declared. It simply needed to be a power that could keep order and, Locke added, it had to protect people’s “right to property.”[8]

But the argument of the property owners and the rich that they had the “right” to decide a social contract and put into power authorities who would enforce their business contracts, protect their property rights, and ensure their freedom to do business (free trade) did not fly, much to their chagrin, unless it was framed as universal.  The claim to royal lineage did not have to be framed as universal. God had chosen these particular people to be rulers. But to claim that government was there to protect my private property and freedom to trade had to include the claim to universality. The common people asked: “Doesn’t everyone have these same rights?”

There arose among those without property another pesky idea: democracy.  This was the idea that everyone had dignity and rights, not just the rich and the property owners who had divided the Earth into territories bounded by absolute borders and organized things so that they ruled these territories. These absolute borders, of course, did not come from divine decree like the realms of the king in the previous era. These borders came about through contingent historical and geographical factors (e.g., island or coastal nations bounded by the oceans surrounding them), but they came about mostly through conquest, colonization, slave trades, etc.—those great historic spin offs of free trade, sovereign national greed, and the private accumulation of wealth.[9] 

The ideology of the property owners created this unfortunate corollary: it made the uneducated, penniless, riff raff of each country believe that they too had rights, and the fact of their poverty and misery even gave them the nerve to claim that “free trade” and unlimited accumulations of private wealth somehow violated their rights. There was talk of revolutions that made the rulers nervous. What was of course needed, the rich understood, was control of the mass media. They bought up the newspapers, the TV stations, and the airwaves so as to frame the concept of “democracy” properly (cleverly blended with the concept of “patriotism”).[10] Democracy now meant the legitimacy of the ruling class, the status quo, the war system, free trade, and business as usual. It worked. 

Ordinary penniless working people displayed their freedom by being willing to fight in wars that made the war industries and the politicians extremely wealthy.  People believed they were “defending democracy” as they slaughtered their counterparts, the penniless working people in other countries. Territorial nationalism and the fear of official enemies was identified with democracy. NATO was formed to solidify the beacon of freedom that was Europe. The ruling class was applauded for keeping us safe from these terrible enemies.  “America is free,” “India is free,” “Europe is free,” “Russia is free,” “China is free.” George Orwell published 1984 articulating their plan of action: “Slavery is Freedom,” “War is Peace,” “2 + 2 = 5.”

To be a “democracy” meant to be a militarized territory dominated by a wealthy ruling class but “independent” of all other militarized territories.  To be a democracy was the same as being a “free nation,” no matter how vicious, corrupt, or devious its ruling class, no matter how poor or desperate its working class. The mantra intoned: “we are a free and independent nation.” It looked as if the ruling classes dominating these sovereign territorial units had solved the “problem of democracy.”  They were keeping us “free.” Our freedom, meant, of course, that they had to spy on us, and curtail our liberties for the sake of our security. Our freedom meant, of course, they had to have their giant war machines paid for by our taxes, necessarily operating in secret apart from democratic prying eyes, in order to ensure our democracy.

But this irritating problem of democracy refused to go away so easily. Like the concept of property rights invented by the 17th century social contract theorists, some wild-eyed individuals wondered if the concept of democracy had a universal dimension to it. Had the problem of “free speech” been handled appropriately by ruling-class ownership of the mass media? Had the problem of “private property” been handled properly by inventing the fine notion that “slavery is freedom?”

Democracy means that the owner of private property has the right to exploit your wage-slave labor for his private profit. It is as simple as that. Free enterprise is fundamental to democracy. In a true democracy slavery is freedom, by definition. But some tedious persons asked why owners of private wealth had the right of exploitation. A nonsense question, associated with some 19th century nut case sitting in the reading room of the London Public Library scribbling some notes he later called Das Kapital.[11]

Other pesky persons asked why democracy had to stop at the militarized borders. Why did democracy apply more to this territory than that?  Why did democracy need endless wars that required that citizens to give up democracy in order to fight and die in them?[12] So many questions making our ruling classes nervous. Better to be polite, better to suppress the questions, better to beg them to please just allow the people of Earth a little more leeway.

However, beginning in 1958, along came that irksome WCPA group shouting out that the Emperor has no clothes.  The world federalist movement, going all the way back to the First World War, was shocked.[13]  How can anything ever be accomplished in the world unless we caress the egos of the Lords of the Earth by pretending that they are the legitimate custodians of democracy, freedom, and private wealth accumulation?

The world federalists decided to ignore this wild-eyed upstart group that refused to pretend the Lords of the Earth had some legitimacy. WCPA, shockingly, refused to repeat the mass media mantra telling the world that “slavery is the same as freedom and democracy.” If you don’t believe us, just join the military, and they will teach it to you. You too can defend democracy by killing other working people abroad. But WCPA persisted, they would not go away, a churlish group of people now spreading worldwide. A sort of pandemic on behalf of human liberation. “Can you have democracy in a system of militarized, sovereign, territorially bound nation-states,” they asked?  

If the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the failure of our world system for all to see, perhaps that world system had already failed before the pandemic, but few were there to point this out?  Didn’t the entire history of the threat of nuclear holocaust from the 1950s on reveal this total failure?  The secret history of the nuclear madness reveals that Armageddon to wipe out humanity has almost happened multiple times (not only during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962).[14] In those days they called this system MAD (mutually assured destruction).  Does this reveal a problem that requires real system change?  Only those annoying WCPA people seemed to think so.

From the 1960s on, the climate scientists have proclaimed that we are facing extinction as the planetary climate disintegrates around us. But the nations have managed to do almost nothing. Even though a series of UN Climate-Change conferences of 1972, 1992, 2002, 2009, and 2015 pointed out their failure and impotency to address the problem.  Does this reveal a problem requiring real change?  Only those pesky WCPA people seemed to think so. The sovereign nations, confronted with the pending extinction of humankind through climate destruction, refuse to make the necessary political and economic changes to save mankind. Should this system also be called MAD?  Only those endlessly disturbing WCPA people seemed to think so.

Human rights are violated worldwide by the Lords of the Earth. These facts are widely known and documented. Nations calling themselves “democracies,” where slavery is freedom, are no exception: torture, political assassinations, bombings, false flag operations, super exploitation, lack of housing, healthcare, or education for citizens, human trafficking, bioweapons research. No problem. Those annoying WCPA people think this is unacceptable.

They even think that there are “third generation” human rights to world peace and a protected planetary environment. How bizarre is this? They claim that peace and a protected environment are universal human rights![15] What national governments might be responsible for violating these third generation rights?  They answer: every single one of them. No sovereign nation can create world peace, protect the planetary environment, or defend the common good of human beings. By their very claim to sovereign independence, they are violating our rights to peace and a protected planetary environment. They are all illegitimate.

The Lords of the Earth have to go, with their militarized absolute borders, endless wars, economic greed, environmental destruction, threat of Armageddon, and domination of the rich over the poor in every nation. Oh, those pesky WCPA people!  They only make the problem worse.  We cannot just demand that the Lords end their nuclear Armageddon and bioterror war systems.  They will be insulted and angry with us.  We cannot just demand that they convert to sustainable economics and globalized democratic politics. They will call us utopians and unrealistic.

What is realistic is that we go slow, that we continue the Armageddon system and hope (against the odds) that they don’t blow us all up. What is realistic that we find “business friendly” ways of converting to sustainability, and hope (against hope) that runaway planetary heating does not continue spinning out of control and burn us all to hell.  What is realistic is not to question the sacred notion of national sovereignty because that is the very essence of the profound truth of democracy that slavery is freedom. What is realistic is not to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Those vexing WCPA people question these realistic truths. They make the absurd claim that democracy is universal, that it can only be universal and global. They make the absurd claim that the people of Earth are sovereign, and that the only legitimate government is government that represents the common good of the people of Earth.[16]  Only democratic world government, they say, can represent the legitimate sovereignty of the people of Earth and the common good.  Only democratic world government can protect the universal human rights to peace and a sustainable planetary ecosystem.

Are those bothersome WCPA people just crazy?  We forward looking world citizens know that realistically we cannot call the system of militarized sovereign nation-states for what it is, for that would offend the Lords of the Earth who need to stay with their MAD system of nuclear and bioterror weapons and their MAD system of environmental destruction in the face of nation-state rivalry and war-making.

If we point out that we need to replace the UN Charter with the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (while bringing all UN agencies into the world government) in order to protect the survival of the human species, they will say it is unrealistic. We need to stay with the nuclear and bioterror MAD and with the environmental destruction MAD for these are the only realistic courses of action.  Not to offend the Lords, with their immense riches funneled through their war and security systems.  Not to threaten their wealth and power if we want to make progress into the future.

The climate scientists tell us we have 10 years left at maximum.  The nuclear and bioterror warfare scholars tell us the likelihood of Armageddon in the next 10 years is not small. But we world federalists assure the Lords of the Earth that “We do not mean world government… We only want to promote a bit more of harmless global governance.”  But those irritating WCPA people just refuse to cooperate. Who are they to claim that we future-thinking people really want to return the world to MAD after the coronavirus subsides?

Notes and Bibliography

[1]  From Italy during its virus crisis: “The whole world says it’s a war. And for the first time in history it seems to be everyone against everyone, without any alliances. Each nation thinks for itself, using every means to guarantee the winning weapons against the virus: swabs, masks, respirators. So the United States managed to buy in Brescia half a million kits to detect the infection. And they shipped them to Memphis in a military aircraft…. In these hours, there are world auctions to buy even rising stock of masks and respirators at increasing prices: an economic challenge, in which the strongest wins. Like in war. But waged without any alliances.”

http://www.newsilkstrategies.com/international-relations/us-scarfs-up-supplies-urgently-needed-in-epidemic-stricken-italy

[2]  Christopher Chase-Dunn, Global Formation: Structures of World-Economy. New York: Roman & Littlefield, 1998.

James Petras, Global Depression and Regional Wars, Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2009.

Michel Chossudovsky, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century. Montreal: Global Research, 2010.

[3] “We are not proposing movement toward world government for were we to travel in that direction we could find ourselves in an even less democratic world than we have.”  Our Global Neighborhood: Report of the Commission on Global Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, p. xvi.

“World government…. This notion is both politically impossible and practically unworkable.”  Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. New York: Plume Books, 1993, p. 301.

Philip Isely, founder of WCPA, writes that those who minimize or ignore world government will “mislead the people and the governments of the world into more years of aimless wanderings in a foggy and extremely hazardous wilderness of avoiding the required practical measures to cope genuinely with world problems.” In Harris and Yunker, eds., Toward Genuine Global Governance: Critical Reaction so “Our Global Neighborhood,” Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1999, p. 105.

[4]  The Secretary-General’s speech:  https://www.un.org/press/en/2020/sgsm20032.doc.htm

[5]  Joseph Romm, Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. 

James Gustave Speth: The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, The Environment, and Crossing the Bridge from Crisis to Sustainability. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. 

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. New York: Duggan Books, 2019.

[6] Doomsday Clock: https://thebulletin.org/2020/04/covid-19-and-the-doomsday-clock-observations-on-managing-global-risk/

[7] Errol E. Harris, Earth Federation Now: Tomorrow is Too Late. Second Edition. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2014, Chapter 4: “Sovereignty and Power Politics.”

       Emery Reves, The Anatomy of Peace. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946.

[8]   Glen T. Martin, Assent to Freedom: Philosophical and Practical Foundations of Democratic World Law, 2008, Chapter 5.

[9]  “Capitalism is an extremist ideology that advances the concentration and rights of ownership without limit, to the exclusion of the needs and rights of the many who own virtually nothing.” David Korton, When Corporations Rule the World. San Francisco: Kumarian Press, 1995, p. 9.

Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn, The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000.

[10]  See Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. Boston: South End Press, 1989. 

Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press, 1991.

Helen Caldicott, If You Love this Planet, W.W. Norton & Co, 1992, Chapter 8: “The Manufacture of Consent.”

[11] Karl Marx, Das Kapital. Volume 3. Trans. David Fernbach. New York: Penguin Classics, 1981. Marx writes:

 “The same justification would apply to slavery, since for the slave owner who has paid cash for his slaves, the product of their labor simply represents the interest on the capital invested in their purchase.” (p. 762). Also: “From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of particular individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man over other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the earth.” (p. 911).

[12] Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues. Boston: South End Press, 1993.

       Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. New York: Henry Holt, 2004.

[13] Glen T. Martin, Constitution for the Federation of Earth. With Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010, Chapter 1.

[14] Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2017.  

John Cirincione, Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the world Before it is Too Late. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.

[15]  See Raymond Wacks, Law: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 149-50.

        See also the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, Articles 1 and 13.

[16]  See Constitution for the Federation of Earth, Article 2.  The Constitution is on-line in many places such as  www.earth-constitution.org.  

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